Monday, July 1, 2013

Riceless Broccoli and Rice Strata

Huh?  How can you call a broccoli and rice dish “riceless”, as in “without rice”?  During my arsenic-in-rice scare (see Beans Not So Musical Part 2, posted June 3) I did some research (that is what the Cooking Librarian does when questions are raised) and found a recipe for riceless rice or cauliflower rice.  Yep, according to the recipe (found at you can use cauliflower as a substitute for rice! And when you think about it, it does make sense since cooked cauliflower is rather bland (making it a very good reason to cover it with a good cheesy sauce). The recipe site advises not to use cauliflower rice in casseroles* but I forgot that one detail when I decided to experiment with Broccoli and Rice Strata – one of my all-time favorite dishes.  This recipe lends itself to “eyeballing” i.e. measuring is not required.

Rice has more carbs than potatoes and wheat products.  So eliminating the rice makes this one tasty low-carb vegetarian meal.

1 small head of cauliflower, leaves and core removed
1 TBSP oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 large mushrooms, sliced and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced**
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
~2 cups broccoli flowerets
1/3 cup cashew nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup sour cream (or Mexican Crema Agria)

Cut the cauliflower into small, even sized chunks.  In batches, pulse in a food processor to rice-size pieces.  You need about 2 to 3 cups “rice”.  The remainder of the “rice” can be frozen to use at another time. 

Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a skillet and add diced onion, bell pepper and mushrooms.  Sauté until liquid has evaporated.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Remove from heat and toss into a 2 quart casserole dish.  Place pan back on the heat and add cauliflower rice.  Sauté to remove as much moisture as possible, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.  Add “rice” to the onion mixture, toss in salt and oregano and stir to combine.

Place broccoli in the same pan with ¼ cup water.  Cover and steam until broccoli is still crisp but bright green – about 3-5 minutes.  Layer broccoli over the “rice” mixture and sprinkle with the cashew nuts.  Cover with the sour cream, mix the two cheeses together and sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake (uncovered) in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the edges of the sour cream start to toast and the cheese has melted.

Notes and Comments
*The reason that cauliflower rice does not lend itself to casseroles is that rice absorbs moisture in the casserole.  Cauliflower, even after sautéing, gives off moisture.  So, although this dish is delicious there will be a pool of liquid in the bottom of the casserole.  But, so what?

**Just read that bell peppers are loaded with all sorts of healthy stuff but cooking them at a high heat removes a lot of the goodness (  One of my favorite ways to prepare bell pepper is to roast it and peel off the skin.  I guess I will give up that practice.  I often eat half a raw red bell pepper with my lunch – delicious and now I know it is even healthier than I thought.

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